A more considered approach to dry cow and early lactation management could reduce metabolice disorders, assisting the longevity of dairy cattle, a leading Canadian nutritionist has advised.

Janet Kleinschmidt, speaking at this week’s Semex conference Knowledge is Power, Glasgow, suggested producers needed to have a greater understanding of nutritional factors to manage health risks at the point of profit in the lactation.

“Cows should not be changing body condition score in the dry period even if they are too fat – it should be done in late lactation.

You risk flipping her into metabolic problems such as fatty liver.

She should remain in a positive energy balance throughout,” she advised.

The impact of poor management had long-term ramifications.

Those suffering uterine dysfunction would take longer to get back in calf. Likewise, loss of body condition in the first 100-days of lactation increases risk of cystic ovaries, fatty liver and spontaneous abortion.

Milk fever is almost unavoidable, but it too can curtail productive lives markedly.

“Optimise dry matter intake to meet cow requirements,” she said.

Fresh feed – with troughs cleaned out daily – should always be in front of cows.

TMR mixes should be damp, up to 50% dry matter, even if that meant adding water or damp brewers’ grains to prevent cows sorting ingredients.

“We also need to avoid oversupplying trace minerals,” added Ms Kleinschmidt.

Stored in the liver, too higher levels can cause a sudden release and lead to toxicity.

Likewise, trace elements are absorbed in the small intestine and compete for the same receptors with high levels generating unnecessary competition.

fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk